Renewable energy embodies everything socialism opposedby Rupert Darwall / June 24, 2013 / Leave a comment
Tony Blair’s billet-doux as premier to Britain’s energy consumers was committing the UK to deriving 15 per cent of its total energy from renewables by 2020. In its characteristic lack of attention to detail, the announcement was vintage Blair. The rest of his government thought Blair was going to agree to commit to 15 per cent of electricity from renewables, not of its total energy use – including transport and heating – a goal they reckoned totally unrealistic.
But beyond its immediate policy implications, Blair’s decision is emblematic of the modern left. To borrow from the French philosopher Pascal Bruckner, author of The Fanaticism Of The Apocalypse, in adopting environmentalism, the left abandoned its ideals. Renewables, particularly wind and solar, contribute very little to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. They are hugely inefficient, requiring back up from fossil fuel or nuclear power stations.
Renewables embody everything socialism opposed. Substituting an efficient source of energy for a less efficient one reduces the productive potential of the economy. A brilliant tweet at the time of the Thatcher funeral encapsulates the left’s ideological confusion—being in favour of coal miners and against what they mined. Coal-fired power stations are being converted to burn imported wood. Policies favouring renewables are a classic case of taking wealth from the many and transferring it to the few—landowners and energy companies.
In Britain between the world wars, rural nostalgia and hostility to industry tended to be preoccupations on the right. The sounds of Stanley Baldwin’s England were the tinkle of hammer on anvil and the scythe against the whetstone, the Conservative leader told a St George’s Day meeting in 1924 after his first stint as prime minister. For George Orwell, it was the clatter of clogs in the Lancashire mill towns, the to-and-fro of lorries on the Great North Road and the rattle of pintables in the Soho pubs. Labour was the champion of urban living and the interests of the industrial working class. Above all, socialism was meant to be about progress.
True, there were some voices on the left eeking a return to a rural past. The distributists, prominent among them Hilaire Belloc and GK Chesterton, advocated expropriating land owners and giving every family three acres and a cow. The Green Shirts, a movement marrying return-to-nature sentiments and…